Hajj, a Divine Rebuke of Racism

Ḥajj, a Divine Rebuke of Racism
By Agha Shabbir Abbas

hajj_packages

Racism, or ‘asabiyyah (clanism) as it is known in the Islamic lexicon, demands that a human believes he is superior to other fellow humans based off of slight differences, particularly ethnicity, language, or nationality. Be it in the American civil rights or South African apartheid context, or the abuse of migrant laborers in the Gulf monarchies, this racism has largely served as a chief justification for grievous human suffering. Humans typically refrain from harming the other due to our inherent feelings of empathy, however, racism annihilates this empathy and replaces it with takabbur (pride), allowing humans to partake in unspeakable evils. The religion of Islam, wholeheartedly rejects this pride, for pride belongs to none other than Allah; this is reflected in the entire essence of Islam from its commandments to its rituals, and of these rituals the most glaring is the pilgrimage of Ḥajj.

During the pilgrimage of Ḥajj, Muslims from every corner of this earth, from the entire spectra of skin-tones and languages, answer the call of the Almighty and bow their heads in humility; testifying in the Tawḥīd (Oneness) of Allah. In unison, they chant the talbiyah, declaring their lowliness in comparison to the singular greatness of Allah:

Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayk. Labbayk Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk. Inna l-Ḥamda, Wa n-Niʻmata, Laka wal Mulk, Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk.
In Arabic: لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَكَ
In English: “Here I am at Thy service O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners. Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners, here I am.”

When one declares “Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners,” it means that man is created to serve Allah alone, and everything other than this service is meritless; and when one declares “Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty” one negates all self-pride, extinguishing oneself in the face of the Almighty’s grandeur. The millions of pilgrims, in their chanting of this talbiyah, completing the entire list of Abrahamic rituals together, circumambulating (tawaf) the Ka’bah, running (sa’ī) between Ṣafā and Marwah, become one body subservient to the Almighty.

This spectacular scene of unity, forces even those who suffered the cruelest forms of racism to rethink their conceptions. The great American Muslim activist and Black leader, Malcolm X, radically altered his beliefs after completing the Hajj in 1965:

“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white… We are truly all the same-brothers. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”

For Malcolm X, yesterday’s devils became today’s misguided brothers, this is the powerful transforming nature of Ḥajj. But for those who, even after seeing the visual unity of peoples, discard this in the claim that all of this is just an unintended consequence of the spread of Islam, are far from correct. For the messenger of Allah, Muhammad al-Mustafa (s), in his utmost love and wisdom, ascended the Mount of ‘Arafah during his last Ḥajj, and exhorted the infantile mostly Arab Muslim community that:

“O people! Indeed, your Lord is one and your father (Adam) is one. Indeed, there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a non-Arab over an Arab, nor of a white over a black, nor a black over a white, except by taqwa.”

The Prophet (s) did not say such devoid reason, as the Qur’an declares that his speech is divine revelation (Qur’an 53:3-4), he, the beloved messenger, through the infinite insight of the Almighty saw that the mostly Arab Ḥajj of the 10th Hijri year would in 1400 years transform into a mostly non-Arab Ḥajj. Therefore, it was there and then that he delivered, during one of his last public sermons, shortly before departing the world, a divine rebuke of racism that would manifest itself in the sea of diversity that is the Ḥujjaj (pilgrims) of Ḥajj.

(This article was originally written for the Masjid-e-Ali Newsletter)

Visiting and Constructing Mazārāt : Practice of the Prophet (s) and the Companions (r)

Visiting and Constructing Mazārāt : Practice of the Prophet (s) and the Companions (r)

By: Agha Shabbir Abbas

baqee01

In the month of Shawwal, Muslims solemnly mark the destruction of Jannat al-Baqi’ (1345 AH/1925) and other religious sites, specifically gravesites, throughout the Hijāz (region consisting of Makkah and Madinah), by the Saudi family and their para-military known then as the Ikhwan (unrelated to the Egyptian group). Jannat al-Baqi’ is the final resting place of many notable individuals pertaining to the religion of Islam, members of the Ahl al-Bayt, all the wives of the Prophet (s) (except for Khadijah), his noble companions, and other historic personalities; prominent among them are Hasan ibn ‘Ali, Zayn al-’Abidin, Muhammad al-Baqir, Ja’far al-Sadiq, ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, Umm Salamah, ‘A’ishah bint Abi Bakr, ‘Uthman ibn Affan, et al. It is reported that an upwards of 7,000 individuals with ties to the Prophet (s) are buried therein, and thus its destruction is considered one of the most heinous of crimes that not only angers all Muslims, but also the Almighty.

Furthermore, it is of the utmost importance to understand why said mazārāt (gravesites) and maqāmāt were destroyed, and why the Saudis are grievously mistaken. The Saudis and their supporters follow the fanatical ideology of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, a militant fundamentalist whose literal approach toward the Islamic scriptures (Qur’an and Hadith) has led to great devastation, and continues to do so. Nonetheless, it is in this literalist fervor that they defend their indefensible crime by bringing forth the following hadith:

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي مَرَضِهِ الَّذِي لَمْ يَقُمْ مِنْهُ ‏ “‏ لَعَنَ اللَّهُ الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى اتَّخَذُوا قُبُورَ أَنْبِيَائِهِمْ مَسَاجِدَ ‏”

‘A’ishah reported: The Messenger of Allah (s) said during his illness from which he never recovered: “Allah cursed the Jews and the Christians for they took the graves of their prophets as mosques.” (Sahih Muslim 529)

If read without context (the folly of literalists), this hadith may seem to justify the actions of the Saudis, however, the context is always necessary. The reason for this exhortation by the Prophet (s) was to warn his community against shirk (idolatry), for shirk is the greatest of all sins in the eyes of the Almighty; and guarding against it is indeed a duty for all Muslims. But the context herein, references the Jews and Christians specifically, for they took the Prophets ‘Uzayr (‘a) and ‘Isa (‘a) as sons of God, as deities, this is mentioned in the Qur’an:

وَقَالَتِ ٱلۡيَهُودُ عُزَيۡرٌ ٱبۡنُ ٱللَّهِ وَقَالَتِ ٱلنَّصَـٰرَى ٱلۡمَسِيحُ ٱبۡنُ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ

“And the Jews say ‘Uzayr is the son of God and the Christians say that the Messiah is the son of God.” (9:30)

The chief difference between the Muslims and those prior, is that at their masājid (places of worship), Muslims worship the Almighty whereas the others worship men. The Prophet (s) was exhorting his community to not worship him after his passing away, and by and far Muslims have not done so. Therefore, this argument against gravesites is irrelevant for Muslims and thus invalid.

Nonetheless, three questions are routinely asked by supporters of the destruction, they are: ‘what is the evidence for visiting gravesites and praying there,’ ‘what is the evidence for building masājid over the graves of pious persons,’ and ‘what is the evidence for placing one’s head in adoration on graves?’ (And when asking for evidence, it is meant from the Qur’an and Sunnah)

1. What is the evidence for visiting gravesites and praying there?

When asking for evidence concerning visiting graves and praying therein, one needs not to look further than al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah (The Beginning and the End) of the famed pupil of Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kathīr. This text is considered one of the most authoritative works on Islamic history, for Ibn Kathīr relied primarily on hadith literature, and that too which he graded as authentic. We find in this work:

عن أبي هريرة قال: كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يأتي قبور الشهداء فإذا أتى فرضة الشعب قال ” السلام عليكم بما صبرتم فنعم عقبى الدار ” ثم كان أبو بكر بعد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يفعله وكان عمر بعد أبي بكر يفعله، وكان عثمان بعد عمر يفعله
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah the Prophet (s) used to visit the graves of martyrs [of Uhud] annually. When he would reach the entrance of the mountain, He would salute them (the martyrs): “Peace be upon you for that you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home!” (13:24)’ Then after the Prophet (s), Abu Bakr also used to come, and after him ‘Umar used to do the same and then ‘Uthman also did the same.”
Continuing on these lines Ibn Kathīr then mentions:

وكانت فاطمة بنت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم تأتيهم فتبكي عندهم وتدعو لهم

“Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet (s), used to visit the graves of Uhud [specifically her uncle Hamzah’s] and used to weep there and pray.” (al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, volume 4)
Therefore we find here that not only is visiting the graves of pious persons from the Sunnah, but making it a ritualistic habit of annual visitation is also from the Sunnah (important for those who criticize the practice of ‘Ashurah/Arba’īn), and that the daughter of the Prophet (s) selected this place to pray and receive barakah from the Almighty.

2. What is the evidence for building masājid over the graves of pious persons?

Those in opposition may counter our first point by saying that, fine, visiting the gravesites is from the Sunnah, but where does one receive impetus to build structures over the graves? The impetus is Qur’anic, we read in Surat al-Kahf:

وَڪَذَٲلِكَ أَعۡثَرۡنَا عَلَيۡہِمۡ لِيَعۡلَمُوٓاْ أَنَّ وَعۡدَ ٱللَّهِ حَقٌّ۬ وَأَنَّ ٱلسَّاعَةَ لَا رَيۡبَ فِيهَآ إِذۡ يَتَنَـٰزَعُونَ بَيۡنَہُمۡ أَمۡرَهُمۡ‌ۖ فَقَالُواْ ٱبۡنُواْ عَلَيۡہِم بُنۡيَـٰنً۬ا‌ۖ رَّبُّهُمۡ أَعۡلَمُ بِهِمۡ‌ۚ قَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ غَلَبُواْ عَلَىٰٓ أَمۡرِهِمۡ لَنَتَّخِذَنَّ عَلَيۡہِم مَّسۡجِدً۬ا

Thus did We make their case known to the people, that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that there can be no doubt about the Hour of Judgment. Behold, they dispute among themselves as to their affair. (Some) said “Construct a building over them”: their Lord knows best about them: those who prevailed over their affair said “Let us surely build a place of worship over them.” (18:21)

In exegesis of this verse, Ibn Kathīr writes in his Tafsīr:

{ قَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ غَلَبُواْ عَلَىٰ أَمْرِهِمْ لَنَتَّخِذَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ مَّسْجِدًا } حكى ابن جرير في القائلين ذلك قولين: [أحدهما] أنهم المسلمون منهم.

“When the people of the cave went into the cave [and died], some people close to the entrance of the cave said, ‘Build a mosque so we can worship Allah.’ The people who said this were Muslims”

Therefore, we find that after the aṣḥāb al-kahf (Seven Sleepers) passed away, Muslims [of that era], not disbelievers, decided to construct a masjid over them in order to worship the Almighty. This is preserved in the Qur’an, and if it were considered a reprehensible act the Almighty would have rebuked them; but He did not and His silence implies consent. Also, the chosen progeny of the Prophet (s) and his noble companions, outrank the followers of all the prophet’s preceding, hence they too deserve the construction of masājid over their graves.

3. What is the evidence for placing one’s head in adoration on graves?

Many a times it is seen that individuals may bow their heads, placing them on graves or the ḍarīh (tombs) enclosing them, this in the view of the opposition constitutes to shirk, for they mistake adoration as prostration. Bowing one’s head in front of a beloved elder, such as grandparent is an automatic impulse, likewise hugging and kissing them, and there is no harm found in this. Nonetheless, the opposition may argue that these type of acts are perfectly fine for the living, not towards the dead. We respond that it is a practice of the rāshidūn to do as such, it is found in Imam Mālik’s Muwaṭṭāʾ:

وحدثني عن مالك أنه بلغه أن علي بن أبي طالب كان يتوسد القبور ويضطجع عليها

Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that ‘Ali ibn Abi Tālib used to rest his head on graves and lie on them. [Muwaṭṭāʾ Imām Mālik, Book 16, Hadith 34]

Therefore, these acts of adoration are not only allowed but also the practice of the pious companions, specifically those whom are considered the Rāshidūn. If ‘Ali ibn Abi Tālib did as such, there is no speculation on the matter and it is forever permissible.

Conclusion

In summary there is ample evidence in both the Qur’an and Sunnah to not only justify the visitation and construction of mazārāt, but to also declare that it is established firmly in the practice of the Prophet (s) and his companions, both the Ahl al-Bayt and the Rāshidūn. So, the followers of Wahhabism, and the supporters of the House of Saud need to take utmost precaution before throwing around words like shirk, for in effect they label the Prophet (s) and his companions as mushrikun (ma’ādh Allah).

Therefore, with the strongest of words we demand the ruling family in the Hijāz to rebuild Jannat al-Baqi’ in Madinat al-Munawwarah and all the other mazārāt and maqāmāt that they have demolished, and to rebuild them with the grandeur that they rightfully deserve. We also urge the Saudis to return control of the Haramayn (The Two Sanctuaries) in Makkah and Madinah to the Muslims, for they have not only proven to be incapable of maintaining this responsibility, but have acted criminally in this position.

Visiting and Constructing Mazārāt : Practice of the Prophet (s) and the Companions (r)

Visiting and Constructing Mazārāt : Practice of the Prophet (s) and the Companions (r)

 

baqee01

In the month of Shawwal, Muslims solemnly mark the destruction of Jannat al-Baqi’ (1345 AH/1925) and other religious sites, specifically gravesites, throughout the Hijāz (region consisting of Makkah and Madinah), by the Saudi family and their para-military known then as the Ikhwan (unrelated to the Egyptian group). Jannat al-Baqi’ is the final resting place of many notable individuals pertaining to the religion of Islam, members of the Ahl al-Bayt, all the wives of the Prophet (s) (except for Khadijah), and his noble companions; prominent among them are Hasan ibn ‘Ali, Zayn al-’Abidin, Muhammad al-Baqir, Ja’far al-Sadiq, ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, Umm Salamah, ‘A’ishah bint Abi Bakr, ‘Uthman ibn Affan, et al. It is reported that an upwards of 7,000 individuals with ties to the Prophet (s) are buried therein, and thus its destruction is considered one of the most heinous of crimes that not only angers all Muslims, but also the Almighty.

 
Furthermore, it is of the utmost importance to understand why said mazārāt (gravesites) and maqāmāt were destroyed, and why the Saudis are grievously mistaken. The Saudis and their supporters follow the fanatical ideology of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, a militant fundamentalist whose literal approach toward the Islamic scriptures (Qur’an and Hadith) has led to great devastation, and continues to do so. Nonetheless, it is in this literalist fervor that they defend their indefensible crime by bringing forth the following hadith:

 
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي مَرَضِهِ الَّذِي لَمْ يَقُمْ مِنْهُ ‏ “‏ لَعَنَ اللَّهُ الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى اتَّخَذُوا قُبُورَ أَنْبِيَائِهِمْ مَسَاجِدَ‏”

 
‘A’ishah reported: The Messenger of Allah (s) said during his illness from which he never recovered: “Allah cursed the Jews and the Christians for they took the graves of their prophets as mosques.” (Sahih Muslim 529)

 
If read without context (the folly of literalists), this hadith may seem to justify the actions of the Saudis, however, the context is always necessary. The reason for this exhortation by the Prophet (s) was to warn his community against shirk (idolatry), for shirk is the greatest of all sins in the eyes of the Almighty; and guarding against it is indeed a duty for all Muslims. But the context herein, references the Jews and Christians specifically, for they took the Prophets ‘Uzayr (‘a) and ‘Isa (‘a) as sons of God, as deities, this is mentioned in the Qur’an:

 
وَقَالَتِ ٱلۡيَهُودُ عُزَيۡرٌ ٱبۡنُ ٱللَّهِ وَقَالَتِ ٱلنَّصَـٰرَى ٱلۡمَسِيحُ ٱبۡنُ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ

 
“And the Jews say ‘Uzayr is the son of God and the Christians say that the Messiah is the son of God.” (9:30)

 
The chief difference between the Muslims and those prior, is that at their masājid (places of worship), Muslim worship the Almighty whereas the others worship men. The Prophet (s) was exhorting his community to not worship him after his passing away, and by and far Muslims have not done so. Therefore, this argument against gravesites is irrelevant for Muslims and thus invalid.

 
Nonetheless, three questions are routinely asked by supporters of the destruction, they are: ‘what is the evidence for visiting gravesites and praying there,’  ‘what is the evidence for building masājid over the graves of pious persons,’ and ‘what is the evidence for placing one’s head in adoration on graves?’ (And when asking for evidence, it is meant from the Qur’an and Sunnah)

  1. What is the evidence for visiting gravesites and praying there?

 
When asking for evidence concerning visiting graves and praying therein, one needs not to look further than al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah (The Beginning and the End) of the famed pupil of Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kathīr. This text is considered one of the most authoritative works on Islamic history, for Ibn Kathīr relied primarily on hadith literature, and that too which he graded as authentic. We find in this work:

 
عن أبي هريرة قال: كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يأتي قبور الشهداء فإذا أتى فرضة الشعب قال ” السلام عليكم بما صبرتم فنعم عقبى الدار ” ثم كان أبو بكر بعد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يفعله وكان عمر بعد أبي بكر يفعله، وكان عثمان بعد عمر يفعله

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah the Prophet (s) used to visit the graves of martyrs [of Uhud] annually. When he would reach the entrance of the mountain, He would salute them (the martyrs): “Peace be upon you for that you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home!” (13:24)’ Then after the Prophet (s), Abu Bakr also used to come, and after him ‘Umar used to do the same and then ‘Uthman also did the same.”

Continuing on these lines Ibn Kathīr then mentions:

وكانت فاطمة بنت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم تأتيهم فتبكي عندهم وتدعو لهم

 
“Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet (s), used to visit the graves of Uhud [specifically her uncle Hamzah’s] and used to weep there and pray.” (al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, volume 4)

Therefore we find here that not only is visiting the graves of pious persons from the Sunnah, but making it a ritualistic habit of annual visitation is also from the Sunnah (important for those who criticize the practice of ‘Ashurah/Arba’īn), and that the daughter of the Prophet (s) selected this place to pray and receive barakah from the Almighty.

  

  1. What is the evidence for building masājid over the graves of pious persons?

 
Those in opposition may counter our first point by saying that, fine, visiting the gravesites is from the Sunnah, but where does one receive impetus to build structures over the graves? The impetus is Qur’anic, we read in Surat al-Kahf:

 
وَڪَذَٲلِكَ أَعۡثَرۡنَا عَلَيۡہِمۡ لِيَعۡلَمُوٓاْ أَنَّ وَعۡدَ ٱللَّهِ حَقٌّ۬ وَأَنَّ ٱلسَّاعَةَ لَا رَيۡبَ فِيهَآ إِذۡ يَتَنَـٰزَعُونَ بَيۡنَہُمۡ أَمۡرَهُمۡ‌ۖ فَقَالُواْ ٱبۡنُواْ عَلَيۡہِم بُنۡيَـٰنً۬ا‌ۖ رَّبُّهُمۡ أَعۡلَمُ بِهِمۡ‌ۚ قَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ غَلَبُواْ عَلَىٰٓ أَمۡرِهِمۡ لَنَتَّخِذَنَّ عَلَيۡہِم مَّسۡجِدً۬ا

 
Thus did We make their case known to the people, that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that there can be no doubt about the Hour of Judgment. Behold, they dispute among themselves as to their affair. (Some) said “Construct a building over them”: their Lord knows best about them: those who prevailed over their affair said “Let us surely build a place of worship over them.” (18:21)

 
In exegesis of this verse, Ibn Kathīr writes in his Tafsīr:

 
{ قَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ غَلَبُواْ عَلَىٰ أَمْرِهِمْ لَنَتَّخِذَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ مَّسْجِدًا } حكى ابن جرير في القائلين ذلك قولين: [أحدهما] أنهم المسلمون منهم.

 
“When the people of the cave went into the cave [and died], some people close to the entrance of the cave said, ‘Build a mosque so we can worship Allah.’ The people who said this were Muslims”

 
Therefore, we find that after the aṣḥāb al-kahf (Seven Sleepers) passed away, Muslims [of that era], not disbelievers, decided to construct a masjid over them in order to worship the Almighty. This is preserved in the Qur’an, and if it were considered a reprehensible act the Almighty would have rebuked them; but He did not and His silence implies consent. Also, the chosen progeny of the Prophet (s) and his noble companions, outrank the followers of all the prophet’s preceding, hence they too deserve the construction of masājid over their graves.

 

  1. What is the evidence for placing one’s head in adoration on graves?

Many a times it is seen that individuals may bow their heads, placing them on graves or the ḍarīh (tombs) enclosing them, this in the view of the opposition constitutes to shirk, for they mistake adoration as prostration. Bowing one’s head in front of a beloved elder, such as grandparent is an automatic impulse, likewise hugging and kissing them, and there is no harm found in this. Nonetheless, the opposition may argue that these type of acts are perfectly fine for the living, not towards the dead. We respond that it is a practice of the rāshidūn to do as such, it is found in Imam Mālik’s Muwaṭṭāʾ:

 
وحدثني عن مالك أنه بلغه أن علي بن أبي طالب كان يتوسد القبور ويضطجع عليها

 
Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that ‘Ali ibn Abi Tālib used to rest his head on graves and lie on them. [Muwaṭṭāʾ Imām Mālik, Book 16, Hadith 34]

 
Therefore, these acts of adoration are not only allowed but also the practice of the pious companions, specifically those whom are considered the Rāshidūn. If ‘Ali ibn Abi Tālib did as such, there is no speculation on the matter and it is deemed forever permissible.

 
Conclusion

In summary there is ample evidence in both the Qur’an and Sunnah to not only justify the visitation and construction of mazārāt, but to also declare that it is established firmly in the practice of the Prophet (s) and his companions, both the Ahl al-Bayt and the Rāshidūn. So, the followers of Wahhabism, and the supporters of the House of Saud need to take utmost precaution before throwing around words like shirk, for in effect they label the Prophet (s) and his companions as mushrikun (ma’ādh Allah).

 
Therefore, with the strongest of words we demand the ruling family in the Hijāz to rebuild Jannat al-Baqi’ in Madinat al-Munawwarah and all the other mazārāt and maqāmāt that they have demolished, and to rebuild them with the grandeur that they rightfully deserve. We also urge the Saudis to return control of the Haramayn (The Two Sanctuaries) in Makkah and Madinah to the Muslims, for they have not only proven to be incapable of maintaining this responsibility, but have acted criminally in this position.

 

By Shabbir A. Abbas

The Experience of Entering ‘Israel’ as a Shi’ah Muslim…

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As a Shi’ah who recently visited Palestine/Jerusalem, I awaited till this day, Yawm al-Quds (Quds Day) to speak about my experiences, and specifically on what changed my outlook on the entire conflict therein.

For those who have visited ‘Israel’ before can confirm, if you travel there on an American passport they cannot deny you entry but can interrogate you; and in their interrogation they ask you certain compromising questions in which if you answer improperly, they can bar your entry for upwards of 10+ years. Therefore, you have to answer their questions as truthfully as possible [as they already know everything about you and just want verbal confirmation], but at the same time not get stuck in one of their verbal traps. They [the Israelis] also utilize every trick in the book to fluster those being interrogated, for example if the individual is a young man they make sure the interrogator is an attractive but extremely stern woman, and opposite for females. Obviously when I arrived at the Allenby Border Crossing, the Israelis wouldn’t just let me pass (for those who don’t know, I’m not white), and you can guess what happens next, I happen to get selected for the said interrogation with said woman interrogator.
 
The first question she barked at me was:
‘Why are you wearing sunglasses!?’
 
They are prescribed, but before I could even open my mouth to respond she barked again (with full anger):
‘DON’T YOU DARE SPEAK TO ME WHILE WEARING SUNGLASSES!!!’

So I took them off, and I’m not gonna lie at this point I was shook, but thankfully I gathered myself for her following onslaught of questions.

And of course the very first question she asks is:
‘Are you a Shi’ah?’

Knowing that they don’t allow Shi’ah’s entry because of Iran and remembering that I need to answer truthfully, but also not truthfully I responded:
‘I consider myself just a Muslim, not a follower of a sect’

She continued to ask me this same question in different ways, and I kept responding near verbatim.

She then changed up the question a bit:
‘So you are ‘just a Muslim’ and don’t believe in sects, but aren’t your parents Shi’ah?’

I responded:
‘They are as I am’

And she continued asking similar questions, also asking about my grandparents and other relatives. She then opened my passport and started quizzing me about some of the places I visited, when she got to Iraq, her demeanor changed and her questions became entirely venomous, to the extent that I can’t express in any written way. Her questions became extremely sulfuric in nature, and I could feel the personal vitriol she had for me.

She hissed:
‘You have been to Karbala?!’
‘Why did you go there and WHAT DOES KARBALA MEAN TO YOU?!’

If my heart were given the reins I would have responded:
‘Karbala means everything to me, my wealth, my family, my blood, my soul, my entire existence, everything I’d sacrifice for it.’
 
But, obviously I did not say that, let alone answer in a straight way, I instead replied:

‘My university Rutgers, has a relationship with the University of Kufa (which it does) and I visit Iraq often in order to visit the university specifically, afterwards as a lover of history I have visited all the historical sites in Southern Iraq because it is relatively safe.’

Even though my university has a relationship with the University of Kufa, visiting it would never be a priority, so I straight up lied there, but this is the kind of lie that can’t be disproved. Nonetheless, this one question kept repeating in my ears the entire trip, the poisonous way it was asked kept paining my heart, and it singlehandedly changed my entire outlook on the conflict.  

She continued assaulting me with similar Shi’ah/Karbala related questions and I kept deflecting to the best of my abilities, after that, without having touched my phone she started asking me private questions which only someone with access to my phone and email could do so. That freaked me out, but then again these are Israelis, if they don’t know your secrets who else would know? Nonetheless, I somehow managed to pass the interrogation but was kept nearly half a day and only released half past midnight.
 
For those who know me know that I’ve always been active in anti-Israel/anti-apartheid activities especially during my undergrad years, a simple Google search could easily verify that. I’ve written articles on the issue, and even been invited on Fox News to discuss my anti-Israel views. But the Israelis had zero concern with all of that, they were instead fixed on my Shi’i background.

Honestly, after the rise of ISIS, and seeing many poor uneducated Palestinian refugees join the terror group and attack the Shi’i community, take part in suicide bombing campaigns in Zaynabiyah (Damascus) and other religiously significant places, I took a step back from my activism and stopped vocally supporting Palestinian liberation. But after witnessing first hand the Israeli hatred for Shi’ism [and the message of Karbala], whatever distance there was between myself and the righteous cause evaporated, and I am now fully convinced that Imam al-Khomeini’s edicts commanding the Shi’ah community to support the Palestinians was not only appropriate but that the Palestinian cause is one in the same as the Shi’i cause, for their [Israeli] enmity for our communities is one and the same.  

I have traveled to lands where takfiris rule, and I have also lived among takfiris but no hatred towards my creed was displayed in way of words as did on that day. If any Shi’i, after reading this still differs, they are grievously mistaken.

By: Shabbir A. Abbas

‘Alī (‘a), the Grandson of ‘Alī (‘a): Communicating With the Almighty

‘Alī (‘a), the Grandson of ‘Alī (‘a): Communicating With the Almighty

Written by: Shabbir Agha Abbas

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(Grave of Zayn al-ʿAbidīn (‘a) in Madinah)

On the 5th of Sha’bān‎ (38 AH) arrived a newborn in the household of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a) a blessing for not just him, but for humanity as a whole; the child being his eponymous grandson ‘Alī, who grew up to be known as Zayn al-ʿAbidīn (the adornment of the worshipers) and Sayyid al-Sājidīn (the master of the prostrators).* Both grandfather and grandson are remembered today for their mastery of the Arabic language, using it to draw mankind closer to their creator; the former by his thought-provoking sermons and exhortations and the latter with his arousing supplications.

The distinction between the two does not at all suggest that one was greater or lacking, but instead signifies the differing circumstances they were in. The grandfather, albeit shortly as the Caliph, was given utmost command over the pulpit whereas the grandson lived in an antagonistic era wherein he was restrained to the ṣaf (prayer rows) amongst the common worshippers, hence the essence may have been the same but the appearance not at all. As Zayn al-ʿAbidīn (‘a) was largely restricted to being just one amongst the worshippers, the means for the believers to be exposed to and ultimately guided by the inherited Prophetic teachings was limited to observing the Imam in his worship, in his prayers.

As the magnificent words of the grandfather, ‘Alī, have been preserved beautifully in the Nahj al-Balāghah, the words of the grandson ‘Alī have been preserved in al-Ṣaḥīfat al-Sajādīyah. However, unlike the Nahj, the Ṣaḥīfah was not compiled by scholars centuries after, it instead was inscribed by the Imam’s son Zayd ibn ‘Alī (‘a) whilst the Imam was narrating these divine supplications. It was written in the presence and on the command of the Imam. Hence, this special book is regarded by the historians as one of the earliest works to have been preserved in such pristine manner, and according to the hadith specialists this work is considered mutawātir, therefore unquestionably authentic. Therefore, in importance this work comes second only to the Qur’ān, and its relationship with the Qur’ān is like no other.

The Qur’ān in function is the divine speech of God to mankind, whereas in function the al-Ṣaḥīfat al-Sajādīyah is the perfect response of mankind to this speech. When reading the Qur’ān alongside the Ṣaḥīfah, it doesn’t seem as if they are two distinct texts instead they read as if they are in the form of discussion. How can this be so? It is, by not being a mere supplication in the form of petitioning the Almighty; instead it is a supplication surrounded by exegesis of the Qur’ān. To demonstrate this, the supplication that the Imam recited in Sha’bān‎ in anticipation of Ramaḍān is a worthy example, an excerpt:

“وَ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي جَعَلَ مِنْ تِلْكَ السُّبُلِ شَهْرَهُ, شَهْرَ رَمَضَانَ, شَهْرَ الصِّيَامِ، وَ شَهْرَ الْإِسْلَامِ, وَ شَهْرَ الطَّهُورِ، وَ شَهْرَ التَّمْحِيصِ، وَ شَهْرَ الْقِيَامِ الَّذِي أُنْزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ ، هُدًى لِلنَّاسِ ، وَ بَيِّنَاتٍ مِنَ الْهُدَى وَ الْفُرْقَانِ“**

“And praise belongs to God who appointed among those roads His month, the month of Ramaḍān, the month of fasting, the month of submission, the month of purity, the month of putting to test, the month of standing in prayer, in which the Qur’an was sent down as guidance to the people, and as clear signs of the Guidance and the Separator!”***

As all proper supplications begin with an adoration of the Almighty, the Imam does so, but in doing so he mentions the month of Ramaḍān, briefly extolling its virtues. After listing them, when he continues on by saying ‘in which’ (الَّذِي) at that moment the words transition from his to Allah’s, however, the transition is entirely seamless. One cannot by the words alone discern the distinction between the two sources; it very well feels as though the train of thought is one of unison.

Nevertheless, being interspersed with verses is a general motif of the supplications, therefore the communiqué that is the Ṣaḥīfah can be understood as a petition to the Almighty using the Almighty’s own words, therefore the efficacy in communication is ultimate. It can quite simply be surmised as such, that the Prophet (s) introduced us to the Almighty (His oneness), whereas ‘Alī described the ṣifāt of the Almighty, and Zayn al-ʿAbidīn showed us how to communicate with the Almighty. As the month of the Qur’ān descends upon us, it would benefit us immeasurably to use this Ṣaḥīfah as our means of communication with Allah ‘azza wa jal, and to attain His proximity.

—-

* There are disagreements on whether he was born in Kufa or Madinah, but it is agreed that he was born during the Caliphate of his grandfather.

** al-Ṣaḥīfat al-Sajādīyah, Supplication 44

*** Qur’ān 2:185

Three Prescriptions From the Pharmacy of ‘Alī (‘a)

Three Prescriptions From the Pharmacy of ‘Alī (‘a)

By: Shabbir Agha Abbas

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As it is the birth month of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (‘a), Rajab al-Murajjab, it would be more than beneficial to revisit the vast pharmacy of wisdom that is the collection of sayings, exhortations, and advice of our beloved Imām. The way it is routine to make monthly visits to dispensaries to refill one’s prescriptions for the ‘ilāj (remedy) of their bodies, it should also be imperative for one to revisit the verses of the Qur’ān and the ahadith for they too are remedies for not just the individual’s physical selves but also that of their souls. The special status of Amīr al-Muʾminīn is that his prescriptions are not just dual in the sense that they remedy both physical and spiritual ailments, but that they are dually relevant to believers and disbelievers alike, beneficial for all who possess intellect.

Of the many written collections of our Imām’s wisdom, there is none more notable than the Nahj al-Balāghah compiled by al-Sharīf al-Raī. However, the Nahj is not all encompassing, therefore it is crucial for both students of knowledge and those seeking healing to search for his wisdom wherever one can find it. As mentioned above the relevancy of his wisdom is transcending so scholars from a wide array of schools and ideologies within Islām have all partaken in this quest to find and record this unquantifiable source of wisdom that is our Imām. Therefore, we find some of the greatest of works on the life and legacy of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib to not have been produced by just his Shī’ah, but by others such as the Khaṣāʾiṣ Amīr al-Muʾminīn of Imām al-Nasā’ī (al-Nasā’ī being one of the six compilers of the Sunni Ṣiah al-Sittah/Authentic Six); this Khaṣāʾiṣ is an extremely important collection of the virtues and individual merits of the Imām. Likewise, the work Dastūr Ma’ālam al-Hikam of the Shāfi’ī scholar al-Qāī al-Quā’ī [employed by the Fatimids] is a compilation of the wisdom of Amīr al-Muʾminīn in the guise of his literary and oratorical brilliance. Luckily, these two works have been translated into the English language, the former by Shaykh Michael Mumisa and the latter by Dr. Tahera Qutbuddin, respectively. It would be quite valuable to obtain these two translations and keep them alongside one’s copy of the Nahj al-Balāghah.

Nonetheless, returning to the prescriptive function of the narrations of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib three from the Dastūr Ma’ālam al-Hikam have been chosen for the benefit of those reading.

1. دع عنك اظن واحسب وارى

Avoid saying “I guess,” “I suppose,” and “I reckon”

Speaking without knowledge is one of the greatest follies of mankind, not only is it sinful but it can lead to serious ramifications in not just one’s own life but that of other’s as well. Assumptions are dangerous, because they aren’t typically based on facts but largely based on emotions and personal biases. It is best if one thoroughly searches for the truth, and if one cannot attain it then at least admit to not knowing. Saying, ‘I do not know’ is a good practice for one to remain humble, and humility is a good trait for a Muslim to possess.

 

2. تخير لوردك

Choose carefully where you water your camels.

In the time of Amīr al-Muʾminīn camels served as the source of livelihood for many a people. Not only were camels important vehicles for transportation, they too provided revenue for their owners by means of their fur (textiles) and milk (dairy); hence they were tools of economic sustenance. But as any business requires capital to grow, camels need to be fed and watered, however even in the water-starved deserts of Arabia a camel cannot be made to drink from any pond or well, the source of water must first be deduced that it is not tainted. Likewise, when we search for our rizq (sustenance) we too must thoroughly ensure that its source is pure, lest we suffer the consequences.

 

3. لا تقض وانت غضبان ولا من النوم سكران

Do not judge when you are angry or intoxicated by sleep.

Many a times in life we make irresponsible and even irreparable decisions while not in a proper state of mind, especially in times of rage and impairment. When one is angry their inhibitions are lowered, and thus more likely to hurt others and to take risks. Therefore we are seeing more and more companies offering anger management courses to its employees, for an angry state of mind poses not just an unsafe environment but also risks the success of that business. As anger is inappropriate for the workplace, it too is inappropriate for our personal lives. Similarly, intoxication whether by the depravity of sleep or the consumption of drugs can result in horrible consequences, the disasters related to intoxicated driving are enough for one to comprehend.

 
The above three are simple short phrases that one could easily impress into their minds, and like the above there is no shortage of prescriptions from the Imām. So gather a few compilation books, however, not to just read, but to make the wisdom of the Imām as found in these books an active participant in one’s life, make it regimen to jot down and memorize these sayings if not daily then at least monthly. Surely, doing so will lead one to both a complete and fulfilling life and a successful hereafter.

 

(This article was originally written for the Masjid-e-Ali Newsletter: https://s3.amazonaws.com/masjid-e-ali.org/April+Newsletter.pdf )

The Practice of Jihād

Please recite a Sūrat al-Fātiḥah for the 1700 cadets of Camp Speicher who were brutally murdered on this day last year (6/12), and for all the righteous mujahideen past, present, and future, who have laid down their lives fi sabil Allah (in the way of God).

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The Practice of Jihād

When studying religions one will ultimately arrive at the understanding that all religions comprise of two fundamental things, which are principles and practices. Similarly the religion of Islam, specifically Shi’i Islam, too consists of these two divisions. The principles being the Uṣūl ad-Dīn and the practices being the furūʿ ad-dīn, for a Shi’i to properly follow his/her religion it is compulsory to adhere to the principles and performing the said practices, neglecting them or rebuffing them would be tantamount to disbelief. Of the compulsory practices one such practice is rather infamous, it is the practice of jihād. This blog-post will attempt to answer three essential questions on jihād and they are:

What is jihād?

What are the different forms of jihād?

What are the consequences of not performing jihād?

What is jihād?

In the simplest of definitions jihād means ‘to strive,’ in Islamic terminology it denotes to any form of activity, either personal or community-wide, of Muslims in attempting to strive for the cause of God and for the sake of Islam. And when you strive for the sake of something your goal is to preserve that thing, to protect it from dangers; hence to further understand what jihād is an example must be given of dangers currently threatening Islam, the greatest threat to Islam today is an internal threat, the threat of extremism. Extremists, specifically under the tutelage of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda have put the entire Islamic world in a state of crisis thus in continuing this discussion on jihād the example of extremists will be used as to whom jihād must be performed against.

What are the different forms of jihād?

The practice of jihād has many forms, of which 5 are most notable, they are:

  • jihād bil-qalb/nafs – jihād of the heart/soul

This form of jihād is also known as al-jihād al-akbar, or ‘the greater jihād,’ it is the individual’s internal struggle to protect his/her faith from the temptations of Shaytan. In a time when the image of Islam is being tarnished by extremists it is very easy for one to become disaffected by Islam, in this case jihād bil-qalb/nafs requires the individual to do whatever possible to strengthen and guard his/her iman, or faith in Islam. When the world is shunning Islam and life begins to become increasingly difficult for Muslims a practical way to perform this jihād is to delve into a state of tazkiyah al-nafs, ‘self-purification,’ by studying and acting upon the sharīʿah as found in the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s) and his purified progeny (s). By doing such one will be able to achieve a qalb salim, tranquil heart, thus affirming one’s faith and ultimately deflecting the temptations of Shaytan.

“Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.” (Qur’an 2:16)

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  • jihād bil-lisan – jihād by the tongue

This form of jihād is an external jihād, wherein Islam is defended by the use of one’s speech. How can Islam be defended by one’s speech? Easy, by talking to those in one’s reach one can rid the misconceptions and lies about the religion, this can extend to giving lectures and debating. And since social media now has become an extension of one’s speech it too falls under this format of jihād. Therefore in context of the given example one can debunk the falsity of extremist Islam by presenting the true teachings of the Holy Prophet (s) and his purified progeny (s); of which a simple method would be sharing factual articles on facebook/twitter. Inviting to the religion of Islam, da’awah, too falls under this category.

“By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), Verily Man is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.” (Qur’an 103)

“Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.” (Qur’an 16:125)

Microphone and stand in the spotlight

  • jihād bil-qalam/’ilm – jihād by the pen/knowledge

This jihād requires the individual to engage in scholarly research in order to defend Islam from said misconceptions and lies, therefore this jihād goes hand in hand with the jihād bil-lisan. How can one share factual articles on social media if there is no one to write the articles in the first place? Hence, becoming a bookworm in order to distinguish truth from falsehood is an act of jihād bil-qalam/’ilm. The Imams from the Ahl al-Bayt (s) have repeatedly emphasized the importance of this jihād.

Amir al-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (‘a) has said: ” …The reward of a religious scholar is greater than the reward of a person who is fasting on days and establishes prayers during the night and fights in the Holy War for the sake of Allah. And, when a religious scholar dies, there will appear a gap in Islam which cannot be compensated except by a replacement of that (kind).” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 2, p. 43)

Imam Hasan al-‘Askari (‘a) has said: “The scholars of our followers are the guards of the bounds of Islam. Then, anyone of our followers who undertakes this (duty) is superior to the one who fights in the battle against the Romans, (because this one defends the theological bounds of our followers).” (AI-Ihtijaj, vol. 2, p. 155)

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  • jihād bil-yad – jihād by the hand

This form of jihād requires physical action. If one witnesses wrongdoing/injustice the action taken to stop it is this jihād. Examples in practice would be stopping a thief, saving a life, aiding the homeless, etc. This jihād fundamentally is to stand up for what is right, always.
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  • jihād bil-sayf – jihād by the sword

This form of jihād, perhaps the most misunderstood and maligned, deals with the usage of violence or qital fi sabilillah, or fighting in the way of God. This form of jihād tends to be a last resort and only situationally compulsory, therefore it is fittingly known as al-jihād al-asghar. In the plethora of misconceptions about Islam this jihād is precisely why the term jihād itself is infamously mistranslated as ‘holy war,’ therefore being aware to the realities of this format is crucial. The only two situations where jihād bil-sayf is permissible is:

  1. Initiated jihād (fighting against oppression/evil)
  2. For self-defense

Furthermore there are a number of rules of engagement that must be upheld when conducting jihād bil-sayf. Some of which are:

-jihād must only be in the name of Allah, and in the case of Initiated jihād declared only by His Prophet (s), the Imam/Hakim, or their deputies. The current jihād in Iraq against ISIS only became valid after the maraj’e, the representatives of the Imam al-’Asr (‘a), declared it so.

-Offensive war is not allowed, jihād bil-sayf is defensive in nature.

-jihād is only in the cause of God and for the sake of Islam, it is not allowed to wage violence for personal gain, wealth, vengeance, etc.

-The sick, elderly, women and children should not be harmed, neither should the natural world (trees, vegetation, animals).

-Places of worship are not be demolished.

-Indiscriminate killings should be avoided and the corpses of the enemy must not be disfigured.

-The prisoners of war must be treated humanely and not be tortured.

Even though this form of jihād is situational it is also a requirement to be in a state of preparedness for said situation, meaning one needs to remain physically fit, be knowledgeable in the art of war, know how to use weaponry and artillery.

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What are the consequences of not performing jihād?

First and foremost the neglecting or abstaining from one’s duty of jihād is considered a major sin in Islam. Doing so of the lesser jihād, jihād bil-sayf, incurs the wrath of the Almighty hence the consequence of not performing the greater jihād, jihād bil-qalb/nafs must too be equally if not more unpleasant.

“O you who believe! When you meet those who disbelieve marching for war, then turn not your backs to them. And whoever shall turn his back to them on that day- unless he turn aside for the sake of fighting or withdraws to a company then he, indeed, becomes deserving of Allah’s wrath and his abode is hell; and an evil destination shall it be.” (Qur’an 8:15-16)

Similarly the great martyred scholar Sayyid ‘Abd al-Husayn Dastghaib Shirazi has reported that Amir al-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (‘a) has said:

“Those who flee from the battlefield should know that they have angered their Lord and have damned themselves to destruction because fleeing from the battle causes Allah’s anger. And one who flees from the Holy war will be certain to face calamities and eternal degradation and his fleeing will not prevent death, and his life cannot be prolonged. That is, if the time of his death has arrived, his fleeing will not delay it. He will die due to some other reason. On the other hand, if the time of his death has not yet arrived and he participates in jihād he will not die. Thus it is better for one to pledge his life to Allah rather than live in Allah’s anger, degradation and dishonour.” (Greater Sins Vol 2, The Twenty-Seventh Greater Sin, p. 191)

Discussion
The practice of jihād should be given utmost importance, especially in this day and age when extremists are bent on hijacking Islam. In this past year 40,000 of our comrades, in Iraq alone, have been martyred in the performance of jihād bil-sayf, therefore no excuses should be given for not performing the other 4 forms of jihād especially when the format and methodology have been thoroughly explained. The dangers posed by extremists are real and must be combatted, be it with our hearts, tongues, pens, hands, or lives.

Written by:

Agha Shabbir Abbas